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Can video game adaptations recover from a bad track record?

Hollywood adaptations of video games historically haven't done well among critics.
Hollywood adaptations of video games historically haven't done well among critics.

The world of video games is heading in the direction of the big screen. Recently, there have been several video game adaptations that have been made into television series and films.

Discourse especially sparked following the release of “Five Nights at Freddy’s” in October. This led to a conversation about how video game adaptations have flourished and failed throughout the years.

Claire Hoyt and Nolan McCoy, who are a part of the Miami Electronic Gaming Association (MEGA), had varying takes on this particular subject.

Hoyt, a junior computer science major, said video game adaptations have reputations of being horrible. McCoy, a sophomore sociology major, agreed, but thought there has been improvement in this specific area. They both said this is something that many  adaptations struggle with, and most of the time, it doesn’t make any sense.

“It's getting better,” Hoyt said. “Not based on how it's played but the engagement of the characters.”

Hollywood struggles to advertise these adaptations to all audiences, focusing instead on a core audience of gamers who can understand and enjoy a film based on the source material. For people unfamiliar with the original games, the viewing experience can be confusing.

Hoyt said Hollywood adaptations historically don't do well and that producers use video games as their only source of reference without having the creators step in to give insight on what direction to take the adaptation in.

One example was the live action “Super Mario Bros.” film that was released in 1993. The movie was a commercial failure and later deemed one of the worst Hollywood adaptations ever.

Hoyt and McCoy both said “Super Mario Bros.” was their least favorite video game adaptation.

“It was real life that was very cringeworthy,” McCoy said. “It had a weird story line that had a typical ’90s plot, with very interesting characters and peculiar elements.”

McCoy and Hoyt also mentioned that live action adaptations are difficult to pull off because of how hard it can be to find actors to play these live adaptations. Movies such as “Mortal Kombat” (2021) and “Assassin’s Creed”(2007) did not do very well at the box office, making it clear that Hollywood tries hard to make films like these blockbuster movies, but ultimately fails.

Hoyt said that studios don't focus on the plot from the adaptations, instead taking the mechanics of the games, using a basic summary of the plot and hoping for a positive outcome. McCoy also said that it is really for the money, and that there is no understanding of the games and how they have run.

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McCoy and Hoyt hadn’t seen “Five Nights at Freddy’s” yet, but said from what they heard, the best thing that the movie did was go straight to the fan base. They also criticized how the film had only focused on a small audience, though.

McCoy pointed out that many people who grew up with these games don't want the characters’ personality traits to change or have anything that is remotely strange.

Hoyt had said that her favorite adaptation was the animated Mario movie released earlier this year. She liked that characters stayed the same and the plot was consistent throughout the entire movie.

“Because it was an animated film, it was a lot easier to make, plus they had the creator of the video game which made it a whole lot better,” Hoyt said.

McCoy’s favorite adaptation was HBO's "The Last of Us” that came out at the beginning of this year. He said the show stayed true to the original structure of the game, which had touched a lot of people. 

Hoyt and McCoy said that if creators of video games step in and help, a lot of Hollywood  producers will succeed with films like these in the future. This would make adaptations more enjoyable  and give people high hopes that movie adaptations from video games will vastly improve.